Chalk up another win for the King.
Although he didn’t fare very well during the 2016 GMC Rangeland Derby, things are looking up for Kelly Sutherland heading into his swansong at the Calgary Stampede.
The 65-year-old Grande Prairie reinsman was purchased by Friends of the King for the top bid of $110,000 at the 2017 GMC Rangeland Derby Canvas Auction on March 23 in Calgary.
“I think there’s only been five or six sales that I haven’t topped the bid,” said Sutherland, who has raced to victory at Stampede Park a record 12 times, the last time in 2011.
The 2017 tarp sale brought in $2,422,500, which is $123,000 more than last year.
“I said if we raised the same amount of money as last year, we’d be very lucky,” said Sutherland.
Sutherland is hoping to make 13 his lucky number on the final day of the Rangeland Derby on July 16. It’ll be his final chance to win the 10-day show due to a Calgary Stampede rule that doesn’t allow drivers to compete once they’re older than 65.
“I’m just hoping that I have tremendous success this year and at least be a threat to win,” said Sutherland. “All the stars have got to line up and everything’s got to be perfect in the world to be a winner at anything. I’m hoping this year’s going to be one of those years that I get to walk on stage – again.”
He’ll have to fend off challenges from the likes of his brother Kirk and nephew Mitch, who finished first and second at last year’s event.
“They kicked me around last year pretty hard,” said Sutherland, a 12-time world champion on the World Professional Chuckwagon Association circuit as well. “My brother and my nephew, they had big years. They’re very competitive. I travelled with Kirk when we were kids and he’s extremely competitive.”
Veteran drivers Rick Fraser (Direct Horizontal Drilling) and Jason Glass (Friends of Glass Racing) tied for the second highest bid of $95,000.
Fraser, a Grande Prairie native, wasn’t too upset to finish second fiddle to Sutherland.
“Kelly’s the highest seller here today and rightly so, because he’s been the face of our chuckwagon industry forever,” said Fraser, whose best finish at the Rangeland Derby was second in 2013. “This is his last year, his last kick at the cat and people want to hook up with him and that’s great for our sport.
“He’s set the bar high – very, very high – and he’s the reason the WPCA runs so well here. He is the reason, because he is the guy that we had to beat to get here to win the Calgary Stampede.”
Fraser said Sutherland has pushed other drivers to want to win – especially at the Calgary Stampede.
“That’s what he comes to do every time,” said Fraser. “He’s taught a lot of us that’s what you do. If you want to go and race a chuckwagon then go somewhere else, but if you want to come to win then come to the Calgary Stampede and you better be ready because Kelly’s going to be ready and so are about 20 of us. We’ll be ready as well.”
Other local WPCA drivers
Other Grande Prairie WPCA drivers Kirk Sutherland (Cam Clark Ford), Mark Sutherland (The Cowboy’s Casino Posse), Mitch Sutherland (Ghostpine Environmental Services Ltd.), Chanse Vigen (The Mavericks Chuckwagon Team) and Mike Vigen (Driving Force) were at the tarp auction.
The first stop on the WPCA 2017 circuit is the Grande Prairie Stompede May 31-June 4.